TAMPA – Not only did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win a home opener on Sunday, something they had done just once in the past five years, they beat New Orleans and scored a plethora of touchdowns doing it in a 31-14 victory. The Bucs have had trouble beating the Saints and scoring touchdowns on offense over the past few years, but Tampa Bay showed tremendous improvement in those areas at Raymond James Stadium, improving to 1-1 on the season while dropping New Orleans to 0-2.
Against the Saints, the Buccaneers improved in several areas that cost them a win last Sunday in Seattle, including touchdown production on offense (four TDs), red zone efficiency (100 percent), turnover margin (2-0) and sacks allowed (zero).
The Bucs raced out to a 21-0 lead at halftime thanks in large part to quarterback Jeff Garcia, who completed 8-of-12 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Both of Garcia’s scores went to Joey Galloway, who had three catches for 94 yards at the half. Garcia finished the day 10-of-16 for 243 yards and two touchdowns, while Galloway posted four catches for 135 (33.8 avg.) and two touchdowns.
Tampa Bay’s defense was a sure-tackling unit on Sunday and was also sound in pass coverage. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was held to 8-of-16 passing for 61 yards in the half. Brees finished the game 26-of-44 for 260 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Tampa Bay recorded its first turnover of the game when middle linebacker Barrett Ruud forced and recovered a fumble by Saints running back Deuce McAllister at the Bucs 43-yard line. The original ruling was that McAllister was down before the ball came loose, but head coach Jon Gruden threw out the red flag and challenged the play, which instant replay correctly overturned.
The Bucs opened up the scoring on an eight-play, 57-yard touchdown drive. Garcia was 3-of-3 for 45 yards on the drive, including a 33-yard pass to tight end Alex Smith on the first play of the scoring march. On third-and-6 from the Saints 8, Garcia scrambled seven yards for a first down to the 1-yard line. Two plays later on second-and-goal, Williams’ 1-yard touchdown run gave the Bucs a 7-0 lead with 5:25 left in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay added another touchdown to increase its lead. On-third-and-11 from the Bucs’ 29-yard line, Garcia hit Galloway on a deep slant in the middle of the field. Galloway outraced cornerback Mike McKenzie across the field from left to right, picking up a devastating block from Michael Clayton on safety Kevin Kaesviharn at midfield. Galloway breezed down the right sidelines, pulling away from cornerback Jason Craft to the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown. With 13:09 left in the second quarter, the Bucs led the Saints, 14-0.
New Orleans had a chance to dent the scoreboard midway through the second quarter, but the Saints’ drive stalled at the Tampa Bay 20-yard line when Drew Brees’ pass to Devery Henderson fell incomplete in the end zone. Olindo Mare missed a 38-yard field goal and the Bucs took over at their own 29-yard line.
Tampa Bay piled it on before halftime after Mark Jones returned a punt 16 yards to the 35. Garcia hit wide receiver Ike Hilliard down the middle of the field for a 41-yard gain over linebacker Scott Fujita down to the Saints’ 24 with 1:12 left. On the next play, Garcia attacked the deep middle of the Saints defense again, lofting a perfect pass to Galloway, who had pulled away from safety Josh Bullocks in the end zone. At the conclusion of the Bucs’ two-play, 65-yard drive that covered 36 seconds, the Bucs led 21-0.
Tampa Bay strongside linebacker Cato June recorded the 11th interception of his career when he stepped in front of wide receiver David Patten to pick off Brees at the Buccaneers’ 47-yard line, killing New Orleans’ first drive of the third quarter. On the Bucs’ second play of the drive, Garcia used play-action to hit Galloway for a 41-yard pass down to the Saints’ 10. Once again, the Bucs attacked the deep middle of the zone, with Galloway getting inside Saints safety Roman Harper. Three plays later, Williams added another 1-yard touchdown run. With 4:26 left in the third quarter, the Buccaneers increased their lead to 28-0.
New Orleans finally got on the board on the following possession thanks to a 1-yard run by fullback Mike Karney, capping off an 80-yard drive in nine plays, taking 3:37 off the clock. The big play was a 58-yard pass play by wide receiver David Patten down to the Tampa Bay 11 as he broke tackle attempts by safety Jermaine Phillips and cornerback Ronde Barber. With 49 seconds left in the third quarter, Tampa Bay led 28-7.
Tampa Bay added a 27-yard field goal with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter, increasing the Bucs’ lead to 31-7 over the Saints.
Brees threw a quick, 4-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 2:50 remaining in the game to cut into Tampa Bay’s lead, 31-14. The Saints’ drive covered 78 yards in 11 plays.
IT WAS OVER WHEN… Tampa Bay came out and did what they tried to do last week at Seattle – start fast and build an early, 14-0 lead. The Bucs didn’t accomplish that last Sunday, settling for two first quarter field goals in a 20-6 loss to the Seahawks, but they did build a 14-0 lead against New Orleans early in the first half this week. Tampa Bay has done a great job of starting fast and capturing momentum in the first quarter, and this week, they maintained that momentum behind a 1-yard touchdown run by Cadillac Williams and a 69-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia to Joey Galloway. The explosive, 69-yard TD reception seemed to take the air out of the Saints’ sails on Sunday.
PEWTERREPORT.COM’S PEWTER PLAYERS OF THE GAME Wide receiver Joey Galloway and quarterback Jeff Garcia came up with several big plays in Tampa Bay’s victory, but none bigger than a 69-yard touchdown with 13:09 left in the second quarter that helped the Bucs build an early 14-0 lead. Garcia showed what a veteran quarterback who is mobile and can see the entire field can do in Jon Gruden’s offense, and Galloway showed what he could do when he actually has a quarterback who can actually hit him with the deep ball. Galloway continued to torment the Saints, scoring his ninth touchdown in the last six games against New Orleans. Galloway recorded his 13th career multi-touchdown game on Sunday, including his fifth as a Buccaneer. For their outstanding play, both Garcia and Galloway are PewterReport.com’s Pewter Players of the Game.
RECORDS, MILESTONES AND NOTES With four catches for 135 yards on Sunday, Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway now has 2,967 yards receiving as a Buccaneer and surpassed Lawrence Dawsey (2,842 yards) and Bruce Hill (2,942 yards) moved into seventh place in team record books. Galloway’s two touchdowns today gives him 24 as a Buccaneer and moves him in front of Bruce Hill (23) and into a tie with Dave Moore.
Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia set a single-game record for yards per pass. His 15.2 yards per pass mark beats the previous record of 14.5 yards per pass set by Vinny Testaverde against Green Bay on September 13, 1992. Garcia was 10-of-16 for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
The Buccaneers have now won five of their last eight games against the Saints, but despite today’s win, the Saints still lead the Bucs 19-12 in the all-time series. As NFC South rivals, the Saints maintain a 6-5 lead in the series.
After today’s victory, head coach Jon Gruden is now 2-4 in home openers in Tampa Bay with the only other win coming in a 19-3 victory against Buffalo in 2005. The Buccaneers are now 5-5 in home openers at Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay won its first NFC South division game since the season finale against New Orleans on January 1, 2006 during the 2005 campaign. The Bucs lost all six division games a year ago.
Sunday’s win over New Orleans marked the first time that Tampa Bay had beaten Drew Brees. Brees had a 3-0 record (1-0 as a Charger, 2-0 as a Saint) against the Bucs coming into Sunday’s game.
Tampa Bay’s 31 points are the most scored since the 31 points it scored in its overtime loss at Chicago last year. That was the only time Tampa Bay scored 30 or more points in 2006.
Former Bucs middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, who is a Tampa Bay pro scout, and former Bucs tight end and long snapper Dave Moore, who is the color analyst for the Bucs Radio Network, were honorary team captains at the coin toss.
Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer, who is recovering from a series of strokes he suffered last year, was in attendance at the game and received the game ball after Tampa Bay's 31-14 win over New Orleans.
STATS THAT COUNT Quarterback Jeff Garcia threw his first touchdown as a Buccaneer against the Saints. … Defensive end Greg White got his first NFL sack just before halftime. … Defensive tackle Jovan Haye also recorded his first NFL sack in the third quarter. … Running back Cadillac Williams scored his first two touchdowns of the 2007 season, doubling his scoring output of a year ago in which he only scored one touchdown. Williams led all rushers with 61 yards on 24 carries. … Not only did linebacker Cato June record his first interception as a Buccaneer, he also snared Tampa Bay’s first pick of the year. … The Saints outgained the Bucs 343-330 yards. … Bucs return man Mark Jones averaged 8.3 yards on three punt returns and had a 36-yard kickoff return. … Tampa Bay middle linebacker Barrett Ruud led all tacklers with 11 stops and also forced two fumbles, recovering one of them. … Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks forced a fumble and finished with nine tackles. … Tampa Bay tight end Alex Smith’s 33-yard catch was a career-long.
BUCS’ STARTING LINEUPS VS. THE SAINTS Starting offense: WR Joey Galloway LT Luke Petitgout LG Arron Sears C John Wade RG Davin Joseph RT Jeremy Trueblood TE Alex Smith WR Ike Hilliard FB B.J. Askew RB Cadillac Williams
Starting defense: LE Greg Spires UT Jovan Haye NT Chris Hovan RE Kevin Carter WLB Derrick Brooks MLB Barrett Ruud SLB Cato June LCB Phillip Buchanon FS Tanard Jackson SS Jermaine Phillips RCB Ronde Barber
Starting specialists: K Matt Bryant P Josh Bidwell LS Andrew Economos
BUCS-SAINTS INACTIVES Bucs Inactives: â€¨CB Brian Kellyâ€¨DE Patrick Chukwurahâ€¨OL Anthony Davisâ€¨DT Ryan Simsâ€¨G Dan Buenningâ€¨MLB Jeremiah Trotterâ€¨QB Chris Simmsâ€¨QB Luke McCown (emergency QB).
Saints Inactives: â€¨WR Robert Meachemâ€¨CB Fred Thomasâ€¨RB Pierre Thomasâ€¨G Andy Allemanâ€¨OT Jermon Bushrodâ€¨TE Ronnie Ghentâ€¨DE Renaldo Wynnâ€¨QB Tyler Palko (emergency QB).
BUCS INJURIES Tampa Bay cornerback Brian Kelly (groin) and defensive end Patrick Chukwurah (knee) didn’t play due to injury. Phillip Buchanon started in place of Kelly and Greg Spires started in place of Chukwurah.
KICKOFF CONDITIONS The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Saints game at Raymond James Stadium was 65,178. The temperature at kickoff was 88 degrees with 67 percent humidity with a heat index of 96 degrees.
UP NEXT The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1), who are now tied for first place in the NFC South due to Carolina (1-1), Atlanta (0-2) and New Orleans (0-2) losing on Sunday, (1-1) will host the St. Louis Rams (0-2) at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, September 23. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org